Policing priorities in an age of budgetary restraint

1 January 2012

Roundtable seminar introduced by Paul Minton, Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Operating Officer, National Policing Improvement Agency, 12 January 2012

For the police service, the coming years represent a period of unprecedented change and challenge. The Government’s reforms will fundamentally transform the way in which policing operates at both local and national level, while Chief Constables are having to make difficult decisions in order to meet the 20 per cent funding reduction set out in the Spending Review. Yet it is precisely this changing landscape that is giving rise to a first-principles debate as to what the police actually do, how they do it, and how best the police can meet modern challenges in an age of budgetary restraint.

At the heart of this is the question of the police mission, specifically defined by this Home Secretary as cutting crime. Some have criticised this mission as too narrow for the complex and multifaceted role that police officers fulfil. Yet, as the discussion bore out, it need not mean a narrow and reactive approach to policing based on simply “catching criminals”. In fact, those around the table argued that the way to cut crime is to identify and understand its root causes, and then apply a preventative focus and early intervention. As one attendee said, the best way to cut crime is to reduce demand.

The implications of such changes for the police service itself are profound. If the police are occupied with more preventative work, then what is meant by the “front line” and the “bobby on the beat” change fundamentally. The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police terms and conditions, expected later this month, offers a real opportunity. Chief Constables should have far greater freedoms to adapt their workforces in order to deliver a new approach and to respond to changing demand.

Better relationships between police and other organisations would promote early intervention. For many years, some police leaders have argued that localisation will threaten the efficiency and effectiveness of national policing arrangements. However, as the roundtable heard, existing examples of collaboration and inter-operable solutions within the 43 force structure show that there is now fertile middle ground in between centralisation and localism. Police and Crime Commissioners will encourage this co-operation because their own efforts to cut crime in their area will be encouraged by joint working between forces.

The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule.




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